Panasonic Healthcare Holdings (U.S website) is a company based in Matsuyama on Shikoku Island, where I gave a talk nearly a decade ago.
Since then, they have parted ways with the parent company Panasonic after investment firm KKR bought an 80% stake, and have bought part of Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd, inviting an outsider, Hidehito Kotani, to take the helm of the company. Recently, Mitsui Co. Ltd has bought 20% of KKR’s stake.
It was to this entirely different company’s Gunma office (in Japanese) that I was invited to give another talk at.
There was a turnout of nearly 500 people, with researchers and engineers from 2 other R&D facilities joining to make a rousing affair.
The questions came thick and fast, and the enthusiasm of the young employees was evident. At the same time, the audience was overwhelmingly male, and there were very few foreigners, one from China asked a question – good thing. I think this is problematic, and indeed can be considered to be a significant weakness.
The gist of my speech? That the company’s departure from the norms and traditions of the company, and the willingness to pioneer changes such as foreign ownership and new governance structures has also trickled down to the employees, creating a vibrancy rarely seen elsewhere. I went on to say that I think it is this ability to depart from familiarity that spurs innovation, and then explained what I meant by ‘innovation,’ before finishing with some observations about the coming years.
It was a rare opportunity to speak at a company’s gathering so I felt good and very excited. To the employees I talked to: please strive to be the best! I am counting on you.